Senior Scams Spike During Holidays

Holidays are a magical time, but unfortunately they are also a time when law enforcement sees a spike in online and telemarketing fraud, especially directed against the elderly.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year. Senior citizens continue to be a rapidly increasing segment of the population.

Why are seniors especially vulnerable? Seniors are seen as easy marks with “nest eggs” that make them attractive to con artists. According to the F.B.I., “people who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say "no" or just hang up the telephone.” In addition, because the elderly are sometimes socially isolated, the elder will stay on the line just to converse with another human being.

“Silver Surfers” are the fastest growing group of Americans using computers, recent studies have shown, using email as an essential way to keep in touch with loved ones. This makes them especially vulnerable to illegitimate “charity” organizations looking for donations, lottery scams and bogus product offers. Elderly victims are less likely to report the fraud because they don’t know who to report to or they are embarrassed to admit they have been scammed.

One of the more popular schemes this season is the “grandparent scam.” In this scenario, someone calls a senior and poses as their grandchild or a friend of the grandchild. The caller claims that the grandchild has been in an accident or is in trouble and needs the grandparent to wire them money. The grandparent is also urged not to tell anyone. Once the money is sent, it is unlikely it can ever be recovered.

What is a senior to do if they suspect fraud? Seniors are urged not to reply to any emails offering “free” medical equipment, miracle cures, or lottery prizes that require up-front payment for processing. Never give out sensitive information over email or phone, including social security numbers and bank information. Verify charity information before donating. In the case of the “grandparent scam,” seniors are urged to call their grandchildren to see if they are really in trouble.

Everyone is vulnerable to deceptions during the holiday season. None more so, it seems, then our senior population. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam or fraud, report it to your local Department on Aging. You may help prevent others from becoming victims as well.

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Technology and Senior Caregiving

Not surprisingly, tech-savvy web users are increasingly turning to the Internet for information and tools to help facilitate their family caregiving needs.

e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century, released in January 2011 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare, found more than two-thirds of family caregivers who already use some form of technology would find web-based senior care tools to be of great benefit.

The study revealed the applications with the greatest perceived potential and helpfulness included web-based systems for caregiver coordination, caregiving decision support and caregiver training simualtion.

According to UnitedHealthcare, “Caregivers were most receptive to technologies that help them deliver, monitor, track or coordinate their loved one‟s health care.” Most would welcome technology that would better allow them to care for their seniors at home.

The most requested services with the lowest perceived barriers include:

  • Personal Health Record Tracking: Caregivers reported that a website or computer software that could help them keep track of their care recipient‟s personal health records, including his or her history, symptoms, medications and test results, would be helpful to them.
  • Caregiving Coordination System: Caregivers indicated that a shared electronic log for their loved one’s doctor appointments and other caregiving needs would be helpful. With this tool, caregivers could request support in their duties, and friends and family members could sign up to help on certain dates and times.
  • Medication Support System: A device that reminds the patient about his or her prescription medications and dispenses pills when they should be taken. This device would also provide directions on how to take each pill and alert the caregiver when the dosages were not removed from the device within a certain time period.

“Caregivers know that technology can be used to help them understand their loved one‟s conditions and find resources and even support,” said Gail Hunt, CEO and president of the National Alliance for Caregiving.

And although more than three quarters of those surveyed said that they are most likely to trust a medical website, like WebMD or, for recommendations on caregiving technology, caregiving websites and caregiver forums on the Internet were also listed as credible information sources. You can read more about Caregiverlist’s mission to provide trusted caregiver support here.

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Senior Communities Emerge on University Campuses

Not content with the retirement lifestyle of their parents’ generation, aging baby boomers are finding a viable alternative lifestyle on a variety of college campuses. Seniors are taking college courses, attending campus cultural and sports events, making use of college fitness facilities and university health services and enjoying inter-generational social interaction by going back to school in their retirement years.

Campus Continuum works with developers and universities in constructing mutually-advantageous university-branded communities, on or near college campuses. The mission is to help provide residences that foster life-long learning.

While most of these campus communities are categorized as Independent Living for active seniors, some, like Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, offer Assisted Living, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing as well.

Two miles from Duke University in North Carolina lies The Forest at Duke, a continuing care retirement community. Their website describes the synergy between Duke and The Forest: “Cutting edge health care and the strong and diverse cultural arts and educational opportunities so close to us have profoundly shaped The Forest's culture.”

University Commons of Ann Arbor , a 92-unit condominium community near the University of Michigan campus, was founded by faculty members and built on land made available by the University.

Research shows that “healthy aging” has many components, but certainly keeping mentally active and enriched provides positive health benefits. This relatively new senior residence model is perfect for the baby-boomer generation who, as they age, still retain their intellectual curiosity, wish to pursue new interests or revisit forgotten avocations.

If you have questions regarding assisted living options, feel free to drop a line to Caregiverlist’s Assisted Living Expert, Lisa Sneddon.

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Siblings Caring for Aging Parents

When my mother brought my brother home from the hospital for the first time, she joked that she had had another child so I wouldn’t be alone in taking care of her in her "old age". Now that she needs the assistance, I am grateful for a sibling who shares the responsibility of caring for our elderly mother.

Not all families are so lucky. Simple geography might determine which sibling is best able to provide face-time with the senior parent. Long-time family dynamics can be challenging when siblings revert to old childhood roles. Some may find the stress of juggling work, raising children or caring for spouses limits their ability to help with parental support, so the family member with the fewest perceived obligations winds up providing the lion’s share of care. Some siblings may feel they are doing too much while others feel they do too little.

Feelings of frustration, anger, guilt and resentment do nothing to help with caring for an elderly parent.

In her book and her blog, They’re Your Parents, Too!, author Francine Russo explores and helps navigate the oftentimes tumultuous landscape of sibling tensions when dealing with eldercare. She covers topics ranging from acknowledging and accepting your parents’ aging, family decision-making and sustaining the family connection into the future.

Ms. Russo recently appeared in a video segment on the ABC News Special Series on Eldercare with Diane Sawyer. In it, she acknowledges that “the (families) who got along best accepted that they all had different relationships (with their parents), but they were in it together.”

And when the family caregiver needs a break, consider utilizing the services of a quality senior home care agency for respite eldercare.

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Senior Safety: When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

The elderly driver who recently struck Reese Witherspoon with her car will not face criminal charges, but police have ordered her to retake her driver's test to see if she shows signs of diminished driving capabilities.

The 84-year-old Santa Monica resident will most likely need to take a written test, have an eye and hearing examination, and submit to a practical, behind-the-wheel evaluation. She may also need to supply the Department of Motor Vehicles with a list of medication she's taking.

The discussion of revoking driving privileges for the elderly is a sensitive one. Not all elder drivers pose a risk (in fact, some studies show that mature drivers have better driving records than younger drivers,) but once the driver reaches the age of 80 and older, crash rates increase. And of course, as the population ages, it is anticipated that the number of drivers age 85 and over in 2030 will be four times greater than today.

Safety concerns should prevail, for both the senior driver and potential accident victim. And although driving means more independence and autonomy for the elder, aging may indeed affect safe driving abilities. By the same token, however, elderly driving skills vary and uniformly revoking drivers licenses based on age alone is unfair.

AAA offers a Senior Driver Portal to help measure the driving skills and needs of the elderly driver. Caregivers need to evaluate the senior driver's competence and if safety is an issue, steps need to be taken.

Guest blogger and Geriatric Care Manager Charlotte Bishop discusses  "The Talk" about giving up the car keys in her most recent blog post. She gives some solid suggestions about how best to broach this potentially awkward subject with the elders in your life.

If you still find resistance, remember that each state's DMV has its own Senior Drivers License Laws. And if your elder can no longer drive, you can certainly hire a qualified caregiver to chauffeur and run errands if you are unable.

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Caregivers Can Help Seniors with Healthy Aging

September is Healthy Aging Month and while good senior home caregivers take care of important elderly care needs, great senior home caregivers can help their elderly clients or family members live a richer and more healthy life as they age. Healthy aging not only helps the individual, but helps the economy by reducing the burden on the health care system. Here are some tips for healthy aging:

  • Stay active. Try to get some sort of physical exercise (with a doctor’s permission) every day. If you’re not used to physical activity, start slow. Walking is a wonderful way to exercise. Find an activity to enjoy. Perhaps take up a long-neglected hobby.
  • Eat well. Load up on high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As much as possible, stay away from processed foods. Remember to stay hydrated.
  • Keep your mind sharp. Board games and puzzles can help keep your brain as active as your body. Take on a new subject, like learning a new language or acquiring computer skills. Take a class. New social connections can also help strengthen the brain.

For a more comprehensive look at healthy aging, read Living Long & Well in the 21st Century, Strategic Directions for Research on Aging, released by the National Institute on Aging.

Find great home caregivers to help with the process of healthy aging in place through a quality senior home care agency.

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Labor Day and the Home Caregiver

Senior care workers are on my mind as Labor Day approaches. I am reminded of the innumerable home caregivers and the protective legislation challenges they face.

2011 is known as the first year of the “age wave”, in which every eight seconds, an American will turn 65. And while an emphasis on aging well—keeping our brains and bodies fit—can help forestall the inevitable, there is no denying that that home care is one of our nation’s fastest growing industries.

Senior caregivers provide the essential care that allows seniors to age in place by providing aid and assistance in their own homes. Very broad U.S. Department of Labor regulations have ensured that home care workers are excluded from basic minimum wage and overtime protections. Exempt “companionship” services have morphed into the wholesale exclusion of workers in the home care industry.

The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act – a bill that would help create a “more stable, valued direct care workforce” was introduced to Congress on June 23, 2011 and would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include basic labor protections for home care workers.

Regulation revision suggests two significant reforms: (1) it should provide that workers employed by a home care agency or other intermediary are not exempt; and (2) it should narrow the definition of “companionship” and exclude workers who perform other types of duties such as providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

This legislation takes major steps towards ensuring the “health, autonomy and well-being of more than 13 million Americans with long-term care needs today and an estimated 27 million by 2050”.

Labor Day, the national holiday observed on the first Monday of September, was first proposed by the Central Labor Union in 1882 to celebrate "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community and was intended as a workingman’s holiday. At that time, the industrialized workforce demanded “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for Recreation.” There are agencies and alliances who are now working toward the same for a growing labor force—the home health care industry.

Learn more about these national initiatives: National Domestic Workers Alliance and their Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, Caring Across Generations: a campaign to “transform long-term care in the United States, those who rely on the support of caregivers to meet their basic daily needs, the workers who provide the support, and the families who struggle to find and afford quality care for their family members.” The National Employment Law Project (NELP): Fair Pay for Home Care Workers: Reforming the U.S. Department of Labor’s Companionship Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act are a few.

If you are a home caregiver and want to increase your viability and skill set, consider Caregiverlist’s 10-hour online certification training. Upon completion you receive a certificate and your name is added to the database registry of training certified caregivers. Elevate your skills. You are invaluable. Training can be your first step to a fulfilling career and your inclusion in a growing labor movement.

And from Caregiverlist, happy end of summer!

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Starbucks CEO Brought Healthcare to Minimum Wage Employees and Now Asks for Your Voice to be Heard

Starbuck's founder and CEO Howard Schultz has always been an innovator.  I read his first book called Pour Your Heart Into It:  How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time and then decided I would be an advocate for health insurance for senior caregivers.  Many senior home care agencies do not provide health insurance benefits for caregivers.

This seems rather astonishing, right?  The caregiver providing senior caregiving does not receive health insurance for their own care needs.  But the reason is actually justified, to an extent, because of the way the current health care system works in the U.S.A.  Some senior home care agencies simply cannot find a health insurance plan to provide benefits for them as a small business.  Most people who have always worked for large corporations and always had health insurance as a company benefit don't realize that health insurance plans do not want to provide benefits for part-time workers and that they require 75% of the employees to participate in order to provide a health insurance plan.  Large companies will have employees who are young and single as well as older workers and will be able to more easily spread out the risk as well as garner enough health plan participation as the majority of their employees are full-time.

Senior care presents unique challenges for health insurance benefits.  Most senior caregivers are women.  Many work part-time.  This makes them a class of employees which is considered to be high-risk by health insurance companies because women of child-bearing age cost more to insure and because health insurance companies don't like the additional costs of paperwork for insuring part-time workers, who usually are shorter term employees, in company group health plans.  In addition, if a woman is already opting-in on her husband's health insurance plan, she won't want to participate in her senior care company's health insurance plan which makes it more difficult for the senior care company to reach the 75% employee participation rate requirement.

While some people are complaining about the current health care legislation that was passed, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to find affordable group health insurance plans for small businesses, to qualify for a group health insurance plan as a small business and it is also tough for individuals to be insured if they have pre-existing conditions.

This is why change in the current health care benefits are needed and while the current legislation is far from perfect, it is a start in the right direction.  Having health insurance exchanges is cool because that does bring competition to the mix and will result in preventive care.  Senior caregivers and medical doctors will tell you that many of their senior clients would not be in the poor health conditions they are in if they ate properly and exercised. Right now their is no incentive for preventive health care.  And having access to health insurance for all is also much needed and very much welcomed because many who want health insurance simply don't have access to it right now, including some senior caregivers.

Now back to Howard Schultz, Starbuck's CEO.  When I owned a senior home care agency, after reading his book and learning that his family struggled with poverty as he grew up, simply because his Dad did not have health insurance benefits through an employer, I very much wanted to be able to provide health insurance for my senior home care agency's caregivers.  Howard Schultz made it his mission to make sure all Starbuck's employees had health insurance and I figured if he could find a way to do it, so could I.  Even though the Starbuck's employee pay was only around $8.00 and change for coffee baristas, when Starbuck's started out, he still made sure they received health insurance benefits.  Caregivers were paid more than this and there had to be a way to find a health insurance plan for the company.

I now realize how huge it was for Starbucks to offer health insurance as a benefit to all employees after finding out how difficult it is to find group health insurance for a small business with high-turnover in employees (seniors will get better or die and no longer need care so high turnover is a given and as high as 50% or more for the senior care industry) and with part-time employees.  I finally found a health insurance company that insured lots of restaurants and was experienced with part-timers and high turnover and basically would not audit the senior care agency for 75% participation rate in order for the senior care agency to qualify for the plan.  Opting-in for health insurance then became a benefit for Chicagoland Caregiver's caregiver employees.  But we were a rare senior care company in offering health insurance to caregivers.  Now I knew why.

Senior caregivers should have health insurance.  The job is demanding both physically and emotionally and there is also a great benefit in preventive health care.  Companies with health insurance can often receive discounted rates if they provide exercise programs, encourage walking on lunch breaks and provide educational clinics about healthy diets and exercises.  This makes life better for everyone.

A geriatric medical doctor once told me that I would be shocked if I knew how many seniors do not have health insurance until they retire and go onto Medicare or Medicaid.  He said imagine the health savings we would experience in Medicare and Medicaid if seniors would have had proper medical care their entire lives. 

Starbucks has stayed the course with providing health insurance, even when major shareholders complained about the costs.

We seem to forget that anyone can walk into the emergency room at a hospital and be treated, even if they can't pay for the care.  Everyone who has health insurance, who in the U.S.A. is mostly those individuals who are insured through their companies, is paying for this luxury of emergency room service through higher insurance premiums and health care costs.  There has to be a better way.  And we have to wonder how many people use the emergency room bandaid simply because they have no other access to health care.

Caring for caregivers should include health insurance benefits along with worker's compensation insurance benefits and all payroll taxes which include social security and unemployment insurance.  This way the caregiver will be able to collect unemployment benefits while they are looking for a new job if the senior passes away and they also have protection with worker's compensation insurance if they are injured on the job, which does happen.  Caregiverlist advocates for quality senior care and provides information on what to look for when hiring a senior home care agency, including meeting the licensing requirements in the state.  In addition, Caregiverlist provides a 10-hour online caregiver training course for senior caregivers which arms caregivers with information on how to manage the care safely and effectively.

Howard Schultz knew that his family was unable to live above poverty because they did not have health insurance to pay for his father's health care.  Starbucks spends $300 million per year on health insurance benefits for employees.  The company believes everyone shares in the success of the company and taking good care of your employees means they will take good care of your customers.  Senior caregivers deserve to be well taken care of by their employers too.

Schultz now is asking Americans to let their voices be heard to move legislation forward that does not just include the special interests.  Only around 41% of Americans who are eligible to vote did vote in the last mid-term elections. 

No matter what side of the table you are on, Schultz is right in that it is time to let your voice be heard in order for innovation to take place.  The deficit can be changed by slashing waste (there has been $6 billion in fraud in Medicare and Medicaid alone) and by adding taxes for those who haven't been paying.

Read and learn and let your voice be heard.  Don't just listen to the sassy tweets and sound bites which often leave out the real meat of the information.  Here is one of America's wealthiest individuals, Warren Buffett, asking the government to start taxing the rich more fairly.  He shares that he paid just 17% of his taxable income while his employees paid from 33% to 41% of their taxable income.  Remembering that there are usually hard-working employees behind anyone who is truly rich, it makes sense to ask them to pitch in and pay their share of taxes so that they can keep the government running smoothly for their employees so they can keep working hard and making them rich.

Send an e-mail to your Senator or Congressman and let your voice be heard.  You can find out the e-mail addresses of Congressman and Senators nationwide in this online Congressional directory.

It is always nice to see someone with the success of Howard Schultz make a move to bring his leadership to other areas that are in need and perhaps with more voices being heard, innovation can begin to happen in the U.S. government too.  You may read about Schultz's email to Starbuck's employees here and how he is asking our elected officials to act like leaders.

As an advocate for quality senior care, Caregiverlist provides the premiere service connecting seniors and professional caregivers with the most reliable eldercare options, highest quality ratings and outstanding careers nationwide - find the daily costs of nursing homes in your area and apply for a caregiving job and share your caregiving concerns with a community of caregivers.








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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Film Spotlights Alzheimer's Disease

Rise of the Planet of the Apes has critics divided in their reviews. For me, more honestly disturbing than the images of an ape overthrow is the movie’s depiction of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

John Lithgow gives a moving performance as genetic scientist Will Rodman’s afflicted father. James Franco is at his most real when interacting with Lithgow—portraying a son’s desperate attempts to return his father to the man he once was, and the painful realization that he cannot. Says Franco of his character, “His father Charles is suffering from dementia so he moves into his father’s house, which was once Will’s childhood home, to take care of him. Being a caregiver is a role Will has never had to perform before.” The film truthfully conveys the immense frustration experienced by both patient and caregiver.

Of course, the movie also gives us villainous Gen-Sys, a large pharmaceutical corporation that’s more interested in turning profit than developing a cure.

Perhaps the proactive movement toward Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention is prescient. While researchers continue to “race toward the cure” (with better results than the movie’s, one hopes,) there is a growing focus on risk reduction and brain protection.

Guest blogger and Geriatric Care Manager Charlotte Bishop neatly summarizes University of California, San Francisco’s report on possible Alzheimer’s reduction in her latest blog Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease?  Proponents say that by leading a brain-healthy lifestyle, you may even be able to prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

I hope this movie helps bring Alzheimer’s and dementia into the popular discussion. Charlton Heston, star of the first Planet of the Apes movie, himself suffered symptoms of the disease. And although Lithgow’s depiction is heart-rending, it cannot truly impart the relentless daily battle faced by those affected.

Caregiverlist has partnered with Terra Nova Films to provide training videos to support caring for seniors with memory loss, including Alzheimer's Disease.

Until a real cure is found, prevention and successful caregiving are the most effective tools we can use.

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Chicken Soup for the Soul Seeking Caregiver Stories

Chicken Soup for the Soul, the book series with motivational and heart-warming stories about life, has expanded to offer customized topics for new books.  The book series next will be publishing a Chicken Soup for the Soul for Caregivers and are seeking story submissions.  Possible future books may be titled:  Boost Your Brain Power, Family Caregiver and Home Sweet Home.

Professional and family caregivers for seniors well know the challenges and fulfillment that comes with the job.  Whether you are caring for a senior with an age-related illness such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Disease or assisting with activities of daily living, the book series is looking for inspiring and supportive stories.  The stories can appeal to both other caregivers, family members and to seniors receiving the caregiving.

The only requirement is that the person receiving care does require constant, on-going caregiving services.

The deadline to submit stories is July 15th.  You may submit your caregiving story for consideration to Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul (not sure if that will be the title when the editors are finished, but it seems like a good one) here.

Caregivers may also learn about caregiver training and job opportunities in their area.

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